Writes Ciaran Dineen
Ciaran Dineen is a long-established writer with The Carrigdhoun Newspaper. He is currently undertaking a Masters in Urban Planning at University College Cork and is a member of the ‘Carrigaline My Town, My Plan’ planning group and was involved with Cork County Council’s ‘Project Act’ committee over the summer.
‘Think globally and act locally’ was world-renowned town planner Patrick Geddes’ philosophy on planning. Despite dying almost 100 years ago, Geddes was clearly a man well ahead of his time, and his thought-process on how we should build and shape our communities is as relevant in Carrigaline 2020 as it was in the 19th century.
When you look at a town like Carrigaline, every man, woman and child knows that we have had a population explosion over the course of the past 20 years and that traffic congestion, via urban sprawl, is not a sustainable feature of our town going forward. Things simply have to change.
An international, European and national trend of reducing the number of cars in our cities and towns had already commenced before the pandemic hit in March, it’s just some have been slower to implement progressive policy than others.
Covid has, however, sparked a catalyst and in simple terms, given us a kick up the backside, meaning that we must now make decisions for the overall betterment of our societies. There will always be a contingent of people who will never be won over, but time waits for no man and we cannot afford to be held back by the (ignorant) few at the expense of prosperity for the many. As Bob Dylan wrote, “the times they are a-changin’, now we must get with the times.
I believe that there are reasons to be positive that change is coming here too in Carrigaline, and while some of it may not exactly be the definitive silver bullet, I am optimistic that we are turning a corner from a road that we have been on for far too long. I suppose it’s important for me to flesh out why I feel so hopeful, so let’s have a brief look at the year that was, 2020.
Transportation And Public Realm Plans
For years Carrigaline has required a transportation and public realm strategy to match the growth of our mushrooming housing estates and now it is more vital than ever. Thankfully the wait is seemingly nearing an end with contractors being appointed following a tendering process, meaning that work on the project can soon commence.
The Traffic and Transportation study and the Public Realm Enhancement Plan, if done right, could be a total game-changer for Carrigaline and the topic has featured in many council debates over the course of the last year. The input from stakeholders, community groups and residents will be vital for the success of the projects and it should be approached with this “think globally, act locally” mentality.
It is a simple fact that without Covid-19, Cork County Council’s ‘Project Act’ initiative would never have had happened. Although the programme was used to address some difficult circumstances, Project Act has arguably done more to foster community and business engagement with the local authority than any other previous initiative.
What it did was bring community group leaders and business owners together, with local councillors and council executives, to deliberate and put forward genuine tangible changes for Carrigaline. As a member of that committee over the summer months it was refreshing to be part of this engagement, and while like any meaningful discussion there were at times disagreements, a plan was subsequently put in place, the impacts of which have been pretty successful.
Pic: Lots of people have been able to enjoy the 'Project Act' Parklet, which was installed over the Summer.
Speaking again in basic terms, without ‘Project Act’ thousands of people would not have been able to enjoy summer coffee and chats outside Bean and Leaf or Carpe Diem, or indeed have the opportunity to enjoy the fantastic amenity that the ‘parklet’ has brought to the front of the Owenabue carpark. It has also helped to reduce the disaster that is long-term parking on Carrigaline’s Main Street, and the new system has seen a real buy-in from the public.
We do, however, need continued co-operation from business owners and staff of businesses. There is ample parking for these people away from Main Street.
Western Relief Road
The development of the Western Relief Road should help to alleviate traffic congestion that plagues the centre of Carrigaline, but on its own it will not prove to be a sustainable solution. The contract was actually signed by Cllr Seamus McGrath during his time as County Mayor, and finally, over three years later, construction is set to commence in the immediate future.
It’s imperative, however, that further political leadership is shown and that bold decisions are made that can accompany this project, including the implementation of a one-way system through the main street of Carrigaline, or in fact potentially pedestrianizing parts of the village to reduce the priority given to cars and shift the focus onto alternative sustainable travel infrastructure.
By-Laws, Circus Field and Pottery Site
Three areas that are key to any future progression of Carrigaline are the implementation of by-laws for retail strategy, the development of public amenities on the Circus Field and a cohesive, holistic approach to development on the Old Pottery site. All three topics have appeared on recent Council agendas and proactive responses need to be taken on all accounts.
The Council are already identifying possible solutions and outcomes for the future development of the circus field, while Cllr Liam O’Connor and others have raised concerns over the potential piecemeal approach to planning permission that could occur on the pottery site.
Reasons to be Optimistic
It has been a year like no other but chinks of light have certainly emerged for the future of Carrigaline. Positive steps have already been taken, with more soon to come, but it is time to strike while the iron remains hot. Cities all around the world are making big decisions and we must follow suit or we risk consigning our younger people to decades of old-fashioned and lazy thinking.
Carrigaline MD Chair, Cllr Aidan Lombard presenting the new parking system earlier this year
However, I genuinely believe that the actors involved in shaping the future of Carrigaline have us on the right track. I think that the current crop of local councillors have the political will to take us forward and not be held back by the nay-sayers and ‘nimbyists’ who offer nothing but regression. Furthermore, the attitude from Carrigaline Municipal District executive officers and Cork County Council seems very positive.
Completing the holy trinity is the input from community groups, who in 2020 have contributed enormously to the Project Act process amongst other things, and they really are the driving force for change. Together this trio now have a once in a lifetime opportunity to set Carrigaline on the right course and taking that chance could indeed impact our town for generations to come.